A Maple Ridge garden that brings together the young and the old is at risk of closing in March if funding can’t be found.
The Intergenerational Garden, at the corner of Edge Street and 121st Avenue, is a teaching garden where local seniors teach school-aged children how to garden and how to grow their own food.
The garden was constructed in 2012 by the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Seniors Network, after receiving a $24,750 grant from New Horizons for Seniors, with cooperation from the school district and the City of Maple Ridge.
In the spring of 2013, students from Eric Langton elementary planted petunias, peppers, carrots, kale, lettuce, beans and strawberries.
However, the garden’s main funder since 2012, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, was unable to support the garden this year due to a drop in contributions to their environmental funds, said Heather Treleaven, coordinator of the Seniors Network.
“We were kind of shocked,” said Treleaven, about the grant money that they would typically receive in October or November.
“But I guess donations are down and they have lots of great projects to choose from,” Treleaven said, adding that they won’t have enough money to reopen if they don’t find further funding by March.
Now Treleaven is looking for interim funding to keep the garden program running through to the end of the school year while they search for sustainable funding for the garden’s future.
Treleaven said the annual budget is around $13,000.
“At this time, we are working hard to secure close to $7,000,” she said.
“These funds will allow us to purchase the necessary liability insurance, rent the portable toilet and pay our part-time coordinator until the end of June,” Treleaven explained.
Every year, Treleaven said, more than 400 elementary school students and around 15 to 20 senior volunteers participate in the garden.
“These intergenerational interactions are a huge benefit to both ends of the age spectrum and are one aspect of a healthy community,” she said.
Shiela Pratt, a volunteer at the garden, said that thinking about the garden not being there makes her so sad.
“It is such a wonderful place. It’s a wonderful teaching tool and it’s a wonderful place for kids to be,” said the senior, who teaches several classes at the garden.
She said the garden helps teach the children where their food comes from and how to grow food properly without pesticides.
“If a kid doesn’t know where potatoes come from and you go and dig up a potato and this thing appears, their eyes are as big as saucers sometimes,” said Pratt.
Valerie Rankin, a Grade 2/3 teacher at Eric Langton elementary, said her classes have participated in the garden program for several years and, last year, in particular, was exceptional because they were able to kick off the garden class by making soup.
Rankin said volunteers taught the students about different types and parts of plants and her students explored the garden weekly and participated in weeding, composting, planting and pruning.
Treleaven said that in addition to growing nutritious, local food for many people, the garden is a neighbourhood gathering point and much needed green space.
She attributed to the garden’s success to the part-time position of the garden coordinator, whom, she said, is critical to the success of the program.
“We believe this position is why our program has thrived while many other school gardens struggle,” she said.
Treleaven also noted there are five gardening beds dedicated to growing food for the Friends In Need Food Bank where, over the past two years, they have donated more than 136 kilograms of food.
Applications have already been made out to a number of organizations for funding, said Treleaven, but, she said, they have had no luck yet.
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